Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Genesis 27 :

6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau… Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
 34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”
 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

It’s hard to make sense of this passage.  There.  I said it.  A few pages to the left, Rebekah’s seeming barrenness is broken when Isaac prays for her.  But then she has a really troubled pregnancy, and she prays to God seeking solace.  He reveals to her that the reason for her great discomfort is that twin boys are jockeying for position in her womb, and that they will be contentious rivals.  God reveals to Rebekah that contrary to the cultural standard of the day, the younger brother will rule and dominate the older.  And with that thought, when the babies are born, the younger brother follows the older, grasping onto his foot, signaling the usurpation that is to come.

Sometime later, after the boys have grown some, Esau comes in from a hard day of hunting, completely famished from his work.  Jacob, who has been preparing soup is home when Esau arrives and demands a portion of the stew Jacob has been making.  Shrewdly, Jacob offers to trade the food for Esau’s claim as first-born son- in short, the entirety of Isaac’s legacy and possessions, as well as the right to determine and decide in all matters as eldest son.  And rashly, Esau, not seeing the long-term value of his title as first-born, sells it for one bowl of soup.

But now- now we see Jacob and Esau’s mother conspiring.  She is eavesdropping on a pivotal conversation in Isaac and Esau’s life- one where Isaac indicates that he sees the end of his life approaching and wants to bequeath a blessing on Esau and effectively prepare him for Isaac’s eventual death and Esau’s ascension to head of the family.  So Rebekah schemes and tells Jacob to participate with her in deceiving the old man- a move which Jacob initially resists, but then appears to accept fully.

Maybe Rebekah never told Isaac about the Lord’s prophecy to her during her pregnancy.  Maybe Esau and Jacob never told the old man about the soup.

Or maybe they did.  Maybe Isaac had learned of the prophecy, knew about the soup.  But didn’t get it.  Maybe he knew that God wanted to use Jacob, but Isaac wasn’t all the way onboard.  Maybe someday we’ll actually know.  Till then, we just have “maybe’s”.

I don’t see a moral here.  I don’t see a lesson to be learned really.  Nothing that I can apply to my life in order to be a better, happier, more productive person.  If anything, I see scheming, distrustful, and manipulative personalities working overtime here.

But I see something else- God said Jacob would be the greater.  Circumstances were stacked against it, but it happened.  It was impossible, but it happened.  So I can see that even when God appears to be making impossible promises, promises that my every experience with our reality denies feasibility to, they still happen.

Are you an Esau?  Men crave the affection and approval of their dads.  Most of them probably have it, but really struggle to see it, or believe it.  Their inability to see their father’s love for them drives them to great lengths, possibly even to the degree that their desire for their father’s approval (or anybody else’s I suppose) becomes their highest pursuit, their greatest good thing- an idol.

Or maybe you’re a Jacob, craving power, never satisfied with what you have.  Maybe you always want one more thing.  Or maybe you think that the only way you can “be something” is by stealing what belongs to somebody else.  Maybe you don’t think you have value, just being you.

Esau showed himself to be rash, and careless.  He was quick-tempered.  Maybe he failed to really throw himself on the strength and mercy of God to be cared and provided for.  

Jacob was easily tempted to do things he knew was wrong.  He was inclined to being opportunistic.
Perhaps these qualities are what showed God how things would be, that he would say the younger would be served by the older.  God’s intimate understanding of Esau’s character and rash behavior, as well as his understanding of Jacob’s quick thinking, and devious nature would somehow create this cultural abnormality, where the younger brother presides over the older.  I don’t really know.

But I know that I can completely trust what God says.  He is not fickle, and he’s never ever misguided.  The only real mark on his character that can be spoken of has to be the company he keeps.

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Genesis 23:

 3 Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites.[a] He said, 4 “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”

 5 The Hittites replied to Abraham, 6 “Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead.”

17 So Ephron’s field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city.

One of the things this past year has really been about for me is erasing the lines that I’ve drawn between me and other people.  All my life I think I’ve struggled to understand how to relate with people.

Maybe that’s common.  Maybe you’ve had seasons of struggle where you didn’t really know how you should relate with people.  Or you’ve wondered if you were being perceived the way you wanted to be.  Or maybe you just started to notice that there were other people around to consider.

I think one of my biggest struggles recently (meaning, for say the last 10 years?) has been achieving balance between isolation and immersion.  Somehow, I couldn’t really find balance between holy isolation, and merciful immersion.  I wanted to be above the darkness, above the grit, beyond the touch of hurt.  I thought that if I could just isolate myself from those things, from those elements of our life on this planet, that somehow the absence of those things would allow for a fuller relationship with God.  As though the filth, or hurt, or courseness of life would somehow block Him out.

Problem is, monasticism isn’t a healthy life.  Not for this guy anyways.  Too much time alone, too much time in the space between my ears, without any light from the outside, and inexplicably I become totally self-involved!  Self-centered.  A universe.  Maybe it’s a good idea for a fella who’s been immersed for a while to find a season of isolation to reconcentrate.  But a whole life?  Bad idea.

Makes me wonder what life might have been like for Abraham.  He doesn’t have the codified law or the community that Israel would develop over the centuries.  He doesn’t have the highly developed community or culture of the church that we know.

He was kind of alone.  Called by this God.  This mysterious, multi-named God.  He found a kindred heart in the deserts of Mamre in the King of Salem, Melchizedek, Priest of the Most High God.  And maybe he had some history with his family’s generational faith.  But no books, no synagogue, no community.  He must have felt some isolation- some distance from the people groups around him.  Hagar the Egyptian.  The Canaanites he partnered with.  His neighbors at Mamre.

But that didn’t drive him away.  Here, at a time of mourning and pain, he is joined by peoples of a different heritage, peoples of a different religion and value-system.  And he shares his pain with them.  He shares his burdens with them.  And they share them too.  They feel his burdens.

They must have known him before this time- they are together in the gates of the city, collectively mourning Sarah’s death and loss.  When Abraham speaks to the people of the city, they address him as a “Prince” and treat him as one beloved.  They offer him a place to bury Sarah- something which I’m sure had cultural value and esteem attached to it.  You didn’t memorialize common folk.

In fact, the owner of the field that Abraham chose to bury his wife in offered to give it to him for nothing.  Twice.  And they certainly must have known Abraham to be a wealthy man.  He’d been living near there for decades.  Finally, Abraham squeezes a price out of the guy and gives him the money.  And the community is all around to witness it and vouch for it.

I have failed to live in community.  I have been ridiculously foolish and naive to think that I had to somehow preserve, purify and isolate myself from the world we live in so that God could have room to take pleasure in my life.  In fact, I wonder if it might have given God more pleasure had I been less concerned with my pharisaical purity and more interested in the relationships I was avoiding?  He is a community loving God.  He is himself a community- a Father, Son and Spirit.

He built community in the beginning, creating a man and a woman, and calling that complete and good. People in Jerusalem  and the surrounding communities knew John the Baptist to be disciplined, and more solitary, but they called Jesus a partier, and a lush.  Jesus.  Lush.  Crazy.

Abraham may have been a lot of things; a truth-bender, a traveler, a warrior, a corporate CEO, a prophet, but though he may have had an unshared faith, he certainly did not have an unshared life.  Tells me something;  God never told him to hide in the shadow, remain above this, avoid those things, or those people.  Abraham must have known that God likes friends.  God likes a party.  He must have known that God likes community.  From this passage in Genesis 23, it seems safe to say that Abraham traveled in broad social circles, hiding from no one, and taking every opportunity to know people better.  Perhaps that’s a lesson I should pay attention to.  We sure know that Jesus did.

Do you feel comfortable traveling in broad circles?  Do you feel challenged when mixing with people who hold different value-systems?  Or even play by different rules?  Are there times when you shouldn’t mix with different folks?  Or is it never right to be alienated from other people?